Special focus is being placed on the development of early childhood education in South St. Andrew.
Minister of Transport, Works and Housing and Member of Parliament for the area, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies, has introduced a BASICS Initiative, which seeks to foster best practices throughout the 28 basic schools in the area.
Speaking in the 2012/2013 Sectoral Debate in the House of Parliament on Tuesday June 19, Dr. Davies informed that the programme, which has been in operation since 2010, is multi-faceted, and entails working with students, teachers, principals and parents.
He said there is a ‘Child Find’ aspect, through which “we are seeking to identify every child between the ages four and six, who are not enrolled in an early childhood institution, and to address this deficiency."
He noted that the inability to pay school fees, provide lunch or purchase uniforms, are some of the reasons put forward by parents/ guardians for non-enrollment of children in schools.
Dr. Davies stated that while the BASICS Initiative is “not a costless exercise”, research has shown that if these children are not enrolled in an organised early childhood institution and have their first formal introduction to learning before the primary level, they start with a major disadvantage.
“We have fully accepted that we will forever be trying to catch up through remedial programmes unless we are better able to address the children, who are between ages 4-6," the Minister said.
Dr. Davies said over the years, he has placed great emphasis on the development of educational programmes in the constituency. “Our investment in literacy programmes has borne fruit and we can provide empirical evidence of the results including the number of students in tertiary institutions, who were assessed as borderline illiterates just over a decade ago,” he noted.
The constituency also has an Adult Continuing Education programme and a Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) Centre for the benefit of students.
By Andrea Braham